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No respite for drivers on the B478
Published 06/03/14

THE road between Sonning and Playhatch will remain closed for several more weeks due to flood damage.

The B478 has been closed for four weeks already due to flooding and although the surface water has begun to drain away “significant” cracking has been found in the centre of the road.

Steve Smith, a senior highways official with Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This would seem to suggest that the failure of the subsurface extends quite some way across the width of the carriageway.

“There is still quite a bit of water in the area at the moment though, so we still cannot see the full extent of the embankment damage.

“It is likely that the foundations are similarly waterlogged, which means we are not yet able to undertake any repairs and this is likely to be the case for some weeks yet.

“With subsoil likely to be being washed away, there is a real risk of a localised collapse in the road and this is likely to increase as water recedes and further voids are created underneath the carriageway.

“This would obviously pose a danger to drivers and we have already had reports of a 4 x 4 carrying children pushing past the barriers, slipping down the embankment into the ditch and needing to be pulled out, which would seem to be borne out by wheel tracks on site. The advice is therefore to continue to keep this road fully closed to all traffic until remedial works can be undertaken as given the line of cracking it would seem that the issue extends too far across to safely open one lane.”

Water-filled plastic barriers have been put in place while the road is closed but drivers have been moving these to get through.

Council officials are to meet discuss taking more substantial measures, such as installing Heras fencing.

David Nimmo Smith, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for transport, said: “We want to get in as soon as possible to do trial pit tests and inspections before we can work up a scheme for the road repairs but the visual evidence to date on the damaged section is not good.”

Last week, the Henley Standard reported how the road could be raised to protect it from flooding in future. Cllr Nimmo Smith, who is a structural engineer, said: “We would only need to raise specific parts of the road that are prone to flooding.”

Meanwhile, a flood warning was issued on Wednesday for parts of Henley and nearby villages including Turville, Skirmett, Stonor and Middle and Lower Assendon.

The Environment Agency said communities were at risk of groundwater flooding and levels were expected to rise over the next few days. A flood warning was also issued for the Thames from Shiplake to Bolney Court, including Lower Shiplake and Wargrave, on Tuesday.

Published 06/03/14

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